Peter Radke

The Radke family have endured dual heartache after losing two beloved family members to pancreatic cancer within a matter of months. Based on their experiences they share a simple message – if something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and seek a second opinion.

Deb shares their family’s journey.

Our first introduction to pancreatic cancer was with my grandmother, Joyce. Although 86 years of age, she loved life, was full of energy and had maintained a healthy lifestyle over the years. However, over period of 18 months, her health had been on a steady decline—sore back, loss of appetite followed by sudden weight loss. While concerned, she put this down to getting older.

She was eventually diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in December 2012. Six days after her diagnosis, she passed away. Just six days. We were in shock but couldn’t have imagined the turn of events that were yet to take place.

Prior to my grandmother’s diagnosis, my father, Peter, was diagnosed with high blood sugar. Despite being prescribed a diet to manage he couldn’t keep control of his blood sugars. By mid-2012, he started feeling unwell regularly, often complaining of a sore back and on the odd occasion, throwing up. By January 2013, he also developed a hernia in his stomach which required an operation. But in a fateful turn of events, surgery was postponed.

In the months following, dad’s health deteriorated significantly. He had lost over 30kgs and was constantly feeling unwell and tired. After a workplace accident in the May, he once again visited his doctor seeking answers for his ill health. Assuming it was the hernia still causing problems, they operated. Dad received the news that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer on 4 June 2013 and was transferred to a hospital in Brisbane with a matter of weeks to live– four and a half hours away from our home in regional Queensland.

Together with my five siblings, we rostered ourselves on rotating shifts to support mum and be by dad’s side. On 5 July 2013, just four weeks after being diagnosed, dad passed away surrounded by his family at the age of 68.

The loss has been devastating for our family losing two significant leaders of the family. My parents were married for 48 years and were the cornerstone of our family. Looking back, I believe that my grandmother and father both displayed classic symptoms of pancreatic cancer but were overlooked for other less serious health problems.

Nobody knows your body better than you do. If you’ve been experiencing persistent symptoms or feel like something is wrong, please discuss with your GP to look deeper to the cause of the problem. And, if you don’t feel like you’re being taking seriously, have the confidence to seek a second opinion.